Map Clipping with Silverlight

Fig 1 – Clip Map Demo

Bing Maps Silverlight Control has a lot of power, power that is a lot of fun to play with even when not especially practical. This weekend I was presented with a challenge to find a way to show web maps, but restricted to a subset of states, a sub-region. I think the person making the request had more in mind the ability to cut out an arbitrary region and print it for reporting. However, I began to think why be restricted to just the one level of the pyramid. With all of this map data available we should be able to provide something as primitive as coupon clipping, but with a dynamic twist.

Silverlight affords a Clip masking mechanism and it should be simple to use.

1. Region boundary:

The first need is to compile the arbitrary regional boundary. This would be a challenge to code from scratch, but SQL Server spatial already has a function called “STUnion.” PostGIS has had an even more powerful Union function for some time, and Paul Ramsey has pointed out the power of fast cascaded unions. Since I’m interested in seeing how I can use SQL Serrver, though, I reverted to the first pass SQL Server approach. But, as I was looking at STUnion it was quickly apparent that this is a simple geo1.STUnion(geo2) function and what is needed is an aggregate union. The goal is to union more than just two geography elements at a time, preferably the result of an arbitrary query.

Fortunately there is a codeplex project, SQL Server Tools, which includes the very thing needed, along with some other interesting functions. GeographyAggregateUnion is the function I need, Project/Unproject and AffineTransform:: will have to await another day. This spatial tool kit consists of a dll and a register.sql script that is used to import the functions to an existing DB. Once in place the functions can be used like this:

SELECT dbo.GeographyUnionAggregate(wkb_geometry)) as Boundary
FROM [Census2009].[dbo].[states]
WHERE NAME = ‘Colorado’ OR NAME = ‘Utah’ or NAME = ‘Wyoming’

Ignoring my confusing choice of geography column name, “wkb_geometry,” this function takes a “geography” column result and provides the spatial union:

Or in my case:

Fig 3 – GeographyUnionAggregate result in SQL Server

Noting that CO, WY, and UT are fairly simple polygons but the result is 1092 nodes I tacked on a .Reduce() function.
dbo.GeographyUnionAggregate(wkb_geometry).Reduce(10) provides 538 points
dbo.GeographyUnionAggregate(wkb_geometry).Reduce(100) provides 94 points
dbo.GeographyUnionAggregate(wkb_geometry).Reduce(100) provides 19 points

Since I don’t need much resolution I went with the 19 points resulting from applying the Douglas-Peuker thinning with a tolerance factor of 1000.

2. Adding the boundary

The next step is adding this union boundary outlining my three states to my Silverlight Control. In Silverlight there are many ways to accomplish this, but by far the easiest is to leverage the builtin MapPolygon control and add it to a MapLayer inside the Map hierarchy:

  <m:MapPolygon x:Name=”region”
  Stroke=”Blue” StrokeThickness=”5″
    Locations=”37.0003960382868,-114.05060006067 37.000669,-112.540368
    36.997997,-110.47019 36.998906,-108.954404
    41.996568,-112.173352 41.99372,-114.041723
     37.0003960382868,-114.05060006067 “/>

Now I have a map with a regional boundary for the combined states, CO, WY, and UT.

3. The third step is to do some clipping with the boundary:

UIElement.Clip is available for every UIElement, however, it is restricted to Geometry clipping elements. Since MapPolygon is not a geometry it must be converted to a geometry to be used as a clip element. Furthermore PathGeometry is very different from something as straight forward as MapPolygon, whose shape is defined by a simple LocationCollection of points.

PathGeometry in XAML:

      <PathFigure StartPoint=”1,1″>
          <LineSegment Point=”1,2″/>
          <LineSegment Point=”2,2″/>
          <LineSegment Point=”2,1″/>
          <LineSegment Point=”1,1″/>

The easiest thing then is to take the region MapPolygon boundary and generate the necessary Clip PathGeometry in code behind:

  private void DrawClipFigure()
    if (!(MainMap.Clip == null))
    PathFigure clipPathFigure = new PathFigure();
    LocationCollection locs = region.Locations;
    PathSegmentCollection clipPathSegmentCollection = new PathSegmentCollection();
    bool start = true;
    foreach (Location loc in locs)
      Point p = MainMap.LocationToViewportPoint(loc);
      if (start)
       clipPathFigure.StartPoint = p;
       start = false;
      LineSegment clipLineSegment = new LineSegment();
      clipLineSegment.Point = p;
    clipPathFigure.Segments = clipPathSegmentCollection;
    PathFigureCollection clipPathFigureCollection = new PathFigureCollection();

    PathGeometry clipPathGeometry = new PathGeometry();
    clipPathGeometry.Figures = clipPathFigureCollection;
    MainMap.Clip = clipPathGeometry;

This Clip PathGeometry can be applied to the m:Map named MainMap to mask the underlying Map. This is easily done with a Button Click event. But when navigating with pan and zoom, the clip PathGeometry is not automatically updated. It can be redrawn with each ViewChangeEnd:
private void MainMap_ViewChangeEnd(object sender, MapEventArgs e)
  if (MainMap != null)
    if ((bool)ShowBoundary.IsChecked) DrawBoundary();
    if ((bool)ClipBoundary.IsChecked) DrawClipFigure();

This will change the clip to match a new position, but only after the fact. The better way is to add the redraw clip to the ViewChangeOnFrame:

MainMap.ViewChangeOnFrame += new EventHandler<MapEventArgs>(MainMap_ViewChangeOnFrame);

private void MainMap_ViewChangeOnFrame(object sender, MapEventArgs e)
  if (MainMap != null)
    if ((bool)ShowBoundary.IsChecked) DrawBoundary();
    if ((bool)ClipBoundary.IsChecked) DrawClipFigure();

In spite of the constant clip redraw with each frame of the navigation animation, navigation is smooth and not appreciably degraded.


Clipping a map is not terrifically useful, but it is supported with Silverlight Control and provides another tool in the webapp mapping arsenal. What is very useful, are the additional functions found in SQL Server Tools. Since SQL Server spatial is in the very first stage of its life, several useful functions are not found natively in this release. It is nice to have a superset of tools like GeographyAggregateUnion, Project/Unproject,
and AffineTransform::.

The more generalized approach would be to allow a user to click on the states he wishes to include in a region, and then have a SQL Server query produce the boundary for the clip action from the resulting state set. This wouldn’t be a difficult extension. If anyone thinks it would be useful, pass me an email and I’ll try a click select option.

Fig 4 – Clip Map Demo

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